All PTSD Symptoms Are Highly Associated with General Distress

Ramifications for the Dysphoria Symptom Cluster

Published in: Journal of Abnormal Psychology, v. 119, no. 1, Feb. 2010, p. 126-135

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2010

by Grant N. Marshall, Terry L. Schell, Jeremy N. V. Miles

Read More

Access further information on this document at Journal of Abnormal Psychology

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

This study used longitudinal data collected from two trauma-exposed samples, survivors of community violence (N = 294) and wildfire evacuees (N = 234), to examine a key claim underlying a proposed reformulation of the symptom structure of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This theory, which we term the PTSD-dysphoria model, posits that 8 of 17 symptoms of PTSD reflect dysphoria or general psychological distress and might be deemphasized to improve the utility of the PTSD construct (Simms, Watson, & Doebbeling, 2002). For each sample, we analyzed PTSD symptoms and measures of general distress administered at 2 time points. A consistent pattern of findings was observed across assessments for each sample: All 17 PTSD symptoms were highly associated with measures of general distress. Moreover, we found no evidence that dysphoria symptoms were more highly correlated than PTSD-specific symptoms with general distress. Results call into question both the conceptual basis and the clinical utility of differentiating between symptoms that appear to be relatively specific to PTSD and those that seem more broadly characteristic of general psychological distress.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/research-integrity.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.